Rebecca Woods was inspired by the potential of freezer foods when she came up with her cookbook, Foolproof Freezer. Shopping from the freezer aisle often has a stigma attached to it, she explains, but it needn’t. Frozen produce, meats and fish are nutritious and provide you with food that doesn’t go bad fast. With the addition of some fresh and pantry items, these freezer foods form the foundation on which to create delicious meals.
Foolproof Freezer contains 60 recipes which have been split into 5 sections corresponding to the 5 basic freezer categories: Meat, fish, carbs, vegetables, and fruit. She also includes a handy guide to freezing left over items like herbs, pastes and sauces so they keep longer. The dishes are simple, time efficient and most importantly taste good. In every recipe she includes a note on re-freezing the dish and warming it up again, a handy guide to ensure that nothing goes to waste.
I gravitated towards the meat section as meat is something you’ll always find in my freezer. When I saw she had a recipe for meatballs served with polenta (the most underrated grain), I knew it would be the recipe I’d share.
These meatballs with peperonata, polenta and crispy fried capers utilize frozen mince, frozen breadcrumbs, and frozen peppers. However, you can make it using fresh mince, breadcrumbs, and peppers. The only changes I made to the dish were ones to make it Kosher. I switched the minced pork for minced beef and omitted the parmesan from the polenta. If you want to include the parmesan, add in 80g of parmesan to the polenta while cooking. The result is a deliciously moreish meatball dish that’s saucy and flavorful and which you’ll want to make again and again.
Meatballs with Peperonata, Polenta and Crispy Fried Capers
For the Meatballs
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small red onion finely diced
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 500 grams frozen minced beef
- 3-6 tablespoons frozen breadcrumbs
- salt and black pepper
For the Peperonata
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large red onion sliced
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 500 grams frozen sliced peppers
- 1 400g can chopped tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
For the Capers
- 4 tablespoons baby capers
- olive oil
For the Polenta
- 200 grams quick cook polenta
- For the meatballs, Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan and add the onion. Fry gently for 5 minutes until soft, then add the garlic and thyme and cook for 2 minutes. Let cool.
- Put the beef in a large bowl and add the cooled onion mix. Add 3 tablespoons of breadcrumbs and mix well. The amount of crumbs required depends on how much water is in the meat. If the mixture is not lumping together and feels wet, add a little more. Season well with salt and pepper. Rooll the mixture into balls a little larger than a walnut. (You should get about 16).
- Heat the reamining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the saute pan and fry half of the meatballs, turning regularly, until they are browned all over. Remove them from the pan with tongs or a slotted spoon and set aside, then fry the remaining meatballs and once browned, set those aside too. Wipe out the Pan.
- For the peperonata, add the oil to the pan and fry the onion for 8 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and fry for a couple more minutes, then add the peppers and tomatoes. Add a splash of water to the can, swirl it around and tip that in too. Increase the heat to a simmer and cook the sauce for 30 minutes, uncovered, until it has reduced down and thickened. Meanwhile, bring 4 cups of water to boil in a saucepan.
- Once the 30 minutes are up, add the vinegar to the sauce and season well with salt and pepper. Return the meatballs to the pan and tuck them into the sauce. Put the lid on the pan and cook for another 10 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through.
- For the capers, add a drizzle of oil to a frying pan over a high heat and then add the capers. Fry for about 5 minutes until crisp.
- Add the polenta to the boiling water in the pan, pouring it in a slow stream while beating with a spoon. Keep beating for about 2 minutes, until the polenta is thickened and no longer gritty. Season well.
- To serve, divide the polenta between four plates and top with meatballs and sauce. Sprinkle with capers and chopped parsley.
Recipe is reprinted with permission from the publisher. Images are by Nutreats Food Photography Studio.
Zissy is the co-founder of Nutreats. She likes to make things, do things and wear things.